Archive for December, 2014

Happy 2015! Try this Mocktail for All Ages

Sunday, December 28th, 2014

Cocktail or Mocktail?

Looking for a special way to ring in the New Year with the younger or non-drinking set?  Here’s a festive, tasty “mocktail” that everyone can enjoy.

Organic Juice Sparkler

This is a fun and healthy way for children to join in on a fancy toast with a sparkling drink of their own. This recipe is really simple and can be made with any kind of fresh, organic juice such as orange, pear, or apple. At holiday time I like pomegranate juice because of the bright and festive color. Pomegranates are a rich source of antioxidants and flavonoids. The juice can be found year round in the fresh refrigerated juice section of most supermarkets.

Makes 1 cup

¾ cup sparkling mineral water
¼ cup fresh pomegranate juice

Combine water and juice in a glass.

Variation

If serving a crowd, combine three parts sparkling mineral water with one part fresh pomegranate juice in a pitcher. Serve over ice cube cuties for older children and adults.

Kids Korner

For a really festive drink, add a few cranberry ice cubes (just add cranberries when freezing water in trays) and a straw. Or a simple piece or rosemary or mint on the top is fancy for all ages.  You’ll be surprised how much those touches will excite your child.

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Hanukkah Chocolate Marshmallow Dreidels

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

Over the years my kids have been curious about many religions, beliefs and traditions.  My son was very infatuated with Judaism when he was about 6 years old.  We set up a menorah in our fireplace with candles and he wanted to play dreidel all the time.  I love that we can learn about and borrow stories and rituals from a variety of backgrounds and cultures.  No more so does this happen than with food.  We may not be Japanese but we certainly love our sushi.  I love to try new foods especially at the holidays.  With this being the first night of Hanukkah I was reflecting back on all the latke recipes I’ve made in the past.  (click to see recipes) There was the sweet potato butternut squash last year and the out of the garden pancake (green latke) a few years ago, and finally the traditional little latke that was part of my son’s religious exploration.

This year I thought we’d try something sweet and festive and I saw these adorable Marshmallow dreidels on Martha Stewart’s website.  These are fun and festive and would be a great addition to a cookie party of school gathering.  Of course we’ll be using the regular marshmallows as well as the vegan ones for my daughter.  Oy!  They happen to be kosher too.

Edible Hannukah Marshmallow Dreidels by Martha Stewart – video here

For an easy spin on the Hanukkah top, whip up these fun, kid-friendly treats. Marshmallows form the dreidels’ bodies, chocolate kisses serve as the tips, and pretzel sticks act as the knobs. A quick dip in melted chocolate provides a surface for piping white-chocolate Hebrew letters.12 chocolate kisses
8 ounces melted semisweet chocolate
12 marshmallows
12 thin pretzel sticks
2 ounces melted white chocolate
Dip bottom of chocolate kiss in melted semisweet chocolate. Press onto marshmallow; transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat to make 12 dreidels. Refrigerate for 10 minutes.
  1. Dip bottom of chocolate kiss in melted semisweet chocolate. Press onto marshmallow; transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat to make 12 dreidels. Refrigerate for 10 minutes.
  2.  Cut a small slit in bottom of each marshmallow; insert 1 thin pretzel stick. Dip dreidels in chocolate, and return to baking sheet. Refrigerate until set, about 15 minutes.
  3.  Fill a resealable plastic bag with melted white chocolate; cut a tiny opening in a corner, and pipe Hebrew letters onto 3 sides of each dreidel. Refrigerate at least 5 minutes or up to 8 hours before serving.

 

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Holiday Food Gift – How to Make Cookies in a Jar

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014

cookiejars

The kids and I have started our holiday baking gifts.  Of course there’s cookies.  But I also like to give things that people can enjoy beyond the holidays.  So we make cookies in a jar.  I think this is especially good for teachers and co-workers and those traveling for the holidays.   Having ingredients pre-measured and ready, makes it easy for the recipient to finish the cookies quickly and can make them whenever they get a cookie craving (and they can get the credit for making them).

To make, you simply layer all the dry ingredients to your favorite cookie recipe in a clear container.  It looks pretty and allows the recipient to finish and bake when they’d like.  This Chocolate Cocoa Cranberry Cookie recipe works well because of the different colors of ingredients.  For those who may be allergic to nuts I feel free to use more chocolate or cranberries.   If you bake, you probably already have some ingredients on hand such as flour, salt, baking powder, sugars, etc.

The only other thing you need to buy is the container.  Here’s where you can get really crafty and creative if you’d like, depending on the occasion.  The recipes calls for a 1 quart jar however I’ve also used a one liter glass mason jar from The Container Store, when the quart wasn’t available.  The wide mouth jars are easier to layer and get ingredients in.  I find a screw top is simple and sturdy, and can be used again once the cookies are gone.  I’ve used various cards and tie-ons to present the recipe.  The kids can have fun personalizing these too.  I find it’s best to attach the baking instructions to the container, so the recipient doesn’t lose it when they’re ready to bake.

Once you get the hang of it and learn the layering and packing technique these are quite simple to do, and you can do a few at once. Here are a few tips for assembling:

  • Use ½ or ¼ cup size measuring cups to place ingredients in mouth of jar.
  • Layer flour in first.  If not it may seep between the layers.
  • Pack down each ingredient. This will allow everything to fit in the jar and also show the clear layers.  I use a spoon and a small juice glass.
  • Layer contrasting colors next to each other, for a better effect.  For instance, dried cranberries next to white chocolate chips and cocoa next to white sugar.
  • Wipe inside of container to clean flour and cocoa which will leave a dust and cloud glass.
  • Store in a cool, dry place
Ingredients

Chocolate Cocoa Cranberry Cookies 

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup cocoa
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans (if concerned about nuts add more chocolate and/or cranberries)
  • 1 cup total: combination of semi-sweet chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, dried cranberries

Directions for Assembling Jar

  1. Combine all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  2. In a 1 quart wide mouth canning jar, layer flour mixture, dark brown sugar, white sugar, cocoa, chopped pecans, and chocolate chips. Pack everything down firmly between ingredients.
  3. Attach a tag with baking instructions (This is ready to print and paste on tag)
Baking Instructions

Chocolate Cocoa Cranberry Cookies

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Empty cookie mix into large bowl.

Thoroughly blend mixture with hands or whisk.

3. Mix in 3/4 cup softened butter, 1 egg (slightly beaten),

and 1 teaspoon vanilla.

4. Shape into walnut size balls, and place 2 inches apart

on a parchment lined baking sheet.

5. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes. Cool 5 minutes on baking

sheet, then move to wire racks.

 

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Making Masa – Handmade Tortillas Recipe

Friday, December 5th, 2014

What do you do on a rainy day?  Make you own tortillas.    I’ve been wanting to do this with my kids and was having a hard time finding Masa Harina (flour made from corn).  I was complaining to a friend about having to drive to a mexican market and she happened to have  extra to give to my cause.  By the way the bought it at Safeway.  I was checking Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.  Now I know.

 

The recipe is simple as is the process and very hands on for kids.  Of course they’d look more impressive with a tortilla press, but more fun and abstract using your hands and rolling pin.  And no I don’t have a tortilla press. Maybe I should check with Santa.  My daughter was really into it and rolled most of them.  My son decided he’s rather help fill them with the good stuff after.  They were pretty small and some were kind of thick to bend or roll, so we used them more like a flat tostada shell and layered black beans, avocado, shrimp, cilantro and corn salsa.

Corn Tortillas

(makes about 20, 6 inch tortillas)

4 cups masa harina (flour made from dried corn)

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups warm water

Put the masa harina in a bowl and mix in the salt. Add about 1 cup warm water and mix with your hands; add more water as needed until the dough comes together. Knead for a few minutes to smooth the dough out. The dough should be firm and springy and should not stick to your hands. Test by forming a small disk, if it’s crumbly or cracks around the edges you need more water.

Form a 1 1/2-inch ball of dough and place it between two sheets or plastic wrap.  Press down with your palm, then roll the dough with a rolling pin.   Remove the top layer of plastic. Carefully peel the tortilla off the bottom plastic.

Place tortillas on a hot, ungreased cast iron skillet or griddle and cook for about 1 to 2 minutes per side. Remove the tortillas and stack on a plate, covered with a clean towel to keep them soft and pliable. Continue until you have used all the dough.

Layer with your favorite toppings and enjoy!

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